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US Winter Weather Forces 6,400 Flight Cancellations

American Airlines jets sit idle after an overnight ice storm forced the closure of DFW International Airport in Dallas, Texas, February 1, 2011

Thousands of flights have been canceled across the United States, as ice, snow and hail from a winter storm is affecting nearly half of the country.

The weather system forced the international airport in the southwestern city of Dallas to close for two hours, and caused major delays and cancellations in Chicago. More than 6,400 flights throughout the country were canceled.

The National Weather Service is urging people to stay inside, calling travel "impossible" and conditions "life threatening." The storm is expected to be one of the largest in recent years.

The midwestern cities of Milwaukee, St. Louis and Chicago are bracing for the biggest impact, with more than 46 centimeters of snow and wind gusts of up to 64 kilometers per hour expected over the next day.

Forecasters have issued blizzard, winter storm and freezing rain warnings for nearly 3,200 kilometers of the country, from the southwestern state of Texas through the midwestern state of Illinois and into the northeastern state of Maine.

President Barack Obama was briefed Tuesday by the heads of two government agencies on federal preparations for the storm. The White House is urging citizens to monitor the news for updates and take steps needed to be prepared for the storm.

The weather conditions forced Mr. Obama to reschedule a trip planned for Wednesday to a university in Pennsylvania. He instead travels on Thursday.

In a region that rarely slows down in winter conditions, midwesterners are preparing to stay home and are stocking up on emergency supplies.

Several governors have already declared a state of emergency. In Missouri, nearly 600 National Guard troops have been mobilized in preparation for the storm.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency began Monday sending emergency personnel, water, food, bedding and generators to areas expected to be hit.